New Beginnings , Book #2
Ballantine Books (Hardcover)
ISBN-13: 978-0-553-39192-3
March 2016
Women's Fiction

Portland, Oregon - Present Day

Nicole's husband Jake sent her to Arizona to a spa to enjoy herself while he carried on his affair with a woman who ended up pregnant, and Nicole has packed up her belongings and left the posh environment of Lake Oswego, moving with their almost four year-old son, Owen, to a small apartment in Portland.  Working as a substitute teacher at a local high school, she earns a modest living for herself, and also does volunteer work at a gently used clothing store called Dress For Success.  Volunteering was the number one thing on Nicole's and her mother-in-law's list for making a new life for themselves.  Helping others is important for them to be able to step away from the pain and hurt of their old lives.  Today, just as Nicole is getting into her car to leave for home after her shift at Dress For Success, she takes a call from her soon-to-be-ex-husband, Jake.  That conversation makes her so angry that she hangs up and manages to back her car right into a ditch!  And after the handsome tow truck driver, Rocco, gets her car back on to the road, she unknowingly drops her cell phone.  But, like the knights of old, Rocco shows up at her apartment, cell phone in hand, proposing a win-win deal for both him and Nicole.  Rocco returns Nicole's check, the one she couldn't afford to write for his tow truck service, and in exchange asks for her help with his fifteen year-old daughter, Kaylene, who wants to attend a high school dance.  A single father, Rocco wants Kaylene to be dressed appropriately, but so far, he hasn't approved of the dresses she's chosen, and he asks Nicole for her help.

Nicole's mother-in-law, Leanne, has also moved to Portland, into an apartment just down the hall from Nicole, which allows her to see grandson Owen, as well as lend a hand babysitting.  It was Nicole's decision to divorce Jake that gave Leanne the courage to walk away from her own unhappy marriage.  Leanne's resulting divorce left her with adequate finances, so she doesn't need to work, but still she volunteers teaching English as a second language at the local community center.  Tonight, one of her students, Nikolai Janchenko, has brought her a gift of warm potato bread, fresh from his oven.  Nikolai emigrated from the Ukraine following the death of his beloved wife, and now he's a baker at a local deli, hoping to save enough money to open his own establishment.

A GIRL'S GUIDE TO MOVING on is a list of actions created by Leanne and Nicole to help them both move into a new life following two very different, yet very identical, marriages.  Over three decades of marriage to Sean brought Leanne only grief and pain as she ignored his wandering eye and continual affairs.  Unable to stand by and watch their son, Jake, follow in his father's footsteps and crush Nicole, Leanne made a point of telling Nicole about Jake's affair, and when Nicole had the courage to walk away from her marriage, Leanne decided to take a hard look at her own situation and do the same, hoping to find happiness in her own life.   While Nicole forges a new and tentative relationship with Rocco and his daughter Kaylene, Leanne begins to see Nikolai outside of school hours, while her ex-husband Sean is determined to intrude into her new life.

The second novel in the New Beginnings series, A GIRL'S GUIDE TO MOVING ON follows LAST ONE HOME (March 2015), where we met Nicole's two sisters who both live in Washington state:  Cassie in Seattle and Karen in Spokane.  A GIRL'S GUIDE TO MOVING ON is totally Nicole's story and Leanne's, but Cassie and Karen make appearances in this story.  Both novels stand fully alone and separate, and although the reading experience is enhanced by reading both books, it is not necessary.  All the main characters:  Rocco and Kaylene, Nicolai, and even Sean and Jake, are endearing.  Surprises and tears are plenty in this heartwarming story of two courageous women striking out on their own to create new lives for themselves.

Diana Risso